MAY DECEMBER – Review by Susan Granger

Do you remember back in 1997 when the tabloids were filled with juicy tidbits about Mary Kay Letourneau, a married schoolteacher who had an affair with a seventh-grade student? Pregnant, she was sentenced to prison and, when she was released, they married and had two more children. Those are the facts. Now filmmaker Todd Haynes has fabricated a story about what their lives might be like 20 years later – when a movie is going to be made about their relationship.

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MAY DECEMBER – Review by T.J. Callahan

First time screenwriter, Samy Burch taps into a vibe of horror meets soap opera as she explores a May – December relationship that mimics that of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau’s illegal love affair and then lawful marriage from the late 1990’s. Directed by Todd Haynes, May December boasts a showcase of actors including Haynes staple, Julianne Moore as Gracie-Atherton Yoo, a convicted sex offender turned baker and controlling housewife. Natalie Portman doubles as the film’s producer and co-star playing Elizabeth, an actress who infiltrates the Yoo home to do research for a film about the family’s past, but ends up changing their future.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 17, 2023: MAY DECEMBER

May December, inspired by headline-grabbing true stories like that of Mary Kay Letourneau, introduces us to Gracie (Julianne Moore), a one-time teacher who’s been married for 20 years to Joe (Charles Melton), the former student she first slept with when he was 13. They’re living an uneasy but largely happy life in Georgia when well-known Hollywood actress Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) arrives to do some background research for the movie in which she’s been cast to play Gracie. By turns star struck and suspicious, Gracie, Joe, and the rest of their family members take Elizabeth into their lives.

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MAY DECEMBER – Review by Sherin Nicole

May December is a duel between two women with unclear motives and serious pathologies. Elizabeth is ravenous in her need for adoration, while Gracie is practiced at verbal programming. The level of manipulation is stunning and Samy Burch’s screenplay so well written you’re not sure if it’s there at all—a prime marker of the abuse infusing the story. May December could easily be classified as horror. I was horrified, you likely will be too.

The title of the film is a play on words, referencing the colloquialism “May-December romance.” The word romance is missing because it doesn’t exist here. What we walk away with is the understanding that past wrongs can be inherited as seamlessly as hereditary diseases. And sometimes “the truth” isn’t the medicine we hope for.

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MAY DECEMBER – Review by Loren King

With shades of Hitchcock and Bergman’s Persona, May December keeps viewers guessing and off kilter, in a good way. Subtle, strange and riveting, Todd Haynes and his two compelling leads present a stylish mix of tabloid sensation and a psychological portrait; it’s a heady mix of irresistible but uneasy entertainment.

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MAY DECEMBER (Melbourne IFF 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Todd Haynes is back, immersing himself neck deep in the exact kind of melodrama that he has thrived on throughout his illustrious career. It’s excess ahoy as it be expected, and the screen crackles with the electric ferocity of Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman’s on-screen chemistry. Considering the icky subject matter, then, the film requires a fairly delicate balance; the subject of women sex offenders is not a common site of interest in screen culture. While the camp excesses of the film would in the hands of a lesser filmmaker perhaps push the film into the terrain of bad taste, in Haynes hands, there is enormous empathy for the situation.

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SHARPER – Review by Susan Granger

There are grifters galore in Benjamin Caron’s psychological thriller Sharper that opens with what appears to be a innocent love story, set inside a small Greenwich Village bookstore. That’s where NYU grad student Sandra (Briana Middleton) meets Tom (Justice Smith), the nerdy proprietor. She’s searching for a copy of Zora Neal Huston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. They ‘click’ and move on to a little Japanese restaurant on Mott Street for canoodling over dinner.

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SHARPER – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The word sharper is another term for a cheating gambler—or “one who lives by their wits,” as the crime thriller Sharper says among its opening titles. Unfortunately, Sharper is dull and predictable, with a plodding pace, little suspense, and twists that anyone who loves heist films will identify well in advance.
Streaming on Apple TV+, Sharper has a fractured narrative, following four key characters at alternate points in the story. This type of structure can produce surprising reveals, but the script by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka (both of Superstore, and also producers) isn’t engaging enough in these portions to override impatience. Those looking for a twisty crime tale will consider Sharper a cheat.

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WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Lauren Anderson

Written and directed by Jesse Eisenberg, When You Finish Saving the World explores the often uncomfortable relationship between mother and son. Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard deliver powerhouse performances in this Sundance 2022 film, in which there is often despair and discomfort but also a fraction of hope and change.

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